By Collin, Sponsored by The Original Fudge Kitchen
CAPE MAY & OCEAN CITY – The Original Fudge Kitchen is serious about fudge. That was the resounding message from Jimmy McHugh and Martin Garvalov, two senior fudge chefs at The Original Fudge Kitchen, a local chain founded by Joe and Paul Bogle when they were just teenagers.
In fifty years, the Bogels spread their fudge stores to towns across Cape May County. But the fudge recipe has remained steady.
“The cooking process has been the same for our 52 years of operation. I am one of the last people to learn how to make fudge directly from the founders,” Jimmy told the Herald on an especially busy Friday at their Washington Street Mall location.
Jimmy has made a career and a life as a fudge chef, but he started his fudge journey when he was just a teen.
“My twin brother and I started here handing out samples,” he said. “I started working here in the summer of 1989 – my brother and I would come here every Tuesday to buy a can of soda and a soft pretzel, and we applied here and soon had our first jobs.”
Jimmy learned the craft of handmaking fudge in the spring of 1996. “It took me that whole summer to learn how to make fudge on my own,” he said.
Jimmy stressed that customer service – serving customers with joy and a smile – is just as important a job as making fudge. All his employees begin their fudge journey by serving customers, he said. If an employee can do this well, then they are ready to make fudge. “Everybody has to be a rifleman first,” he said.
Jimmy’s long tenure at The Original Fudge Kitchen is not an anomaly. Each of the six locations has a “Senior Fudge Maker” who has worked with the company for over a decade.
In Ocean City, that person is Martin Garvalov, a fudge maker with 17 years under his belt. He started his tenure as a J-1 temporary worker from Bulgaria. “But 17 years later, and I am still here,” Martin said in an interview with the Herald. He met his wife at the shop, and now has two kids that have grown up on the shore.
“When I first arrived, my English wasn’t great,” he said. “After a few weeks, the owners really liked me, and I learned how to make fudge. I was cooking fudge that entire summer.”
Senior fudge chefs like Martin and Jimmy help to create new flavors, too. If a new idea catches on at one location, it eventually spreads to all the rest.
Martin recently created a “Heath Bar Crunch” flavor that has been very successful. Artem Zhuravlev, a fudge chef with over 20 years of experience at the Wildwood location, has seen success with a Reese’s Pieces flavor.
But not every new flavor is a hit. Jimmy said a seasonal eggnog flavor has “never taken off, no matter how much we workshop it.”
Every flavor starts with one of two bases – chocolate or vanilla. Plain chocolate is the most popular flavor by far, but Jimmy said that vanilla is easier to work with when making new flavors.
Flavors might rotate in and out, but the act of fudge making – melting the sugar, whipping air into the batch, letting it cool for a day, and whipping out any remaining sugar crystals – has been a constant.
“The process hasn’t changed since I was 16 years old and I’ll be 44 this August,” Jimmy said. “It’s repetition, it’s the batting cage. We hit the cage every day because we care about quality.”
Visit the The Original Fudge Kitchen every day of the year in Ocean City, Stone Harbor, Cape May, and Wildwood, or order online at www.FudgeKitchens.com